Shatter vs. Wax: What’s the Difference?

Sophia Delphi May 25, 2022 - 7 min read
Fact Checked
Image of Cannabis Concentrates Wax and Shatter

If you’ve tried dabbing — and at least one study indicates that well over half of weed users have at least tried it — you probably weren’t initially concerned with what type of concentrate was on the dab nail. [1]

It’s likely that someone else provided the dab and the equipment, while you were more focused on figuring out the technique and enjoying the user experience.

As with anything else, though, experience lets you pay more attention to detail. Once you’re able to confidently handle a dab rig, you’re ready to consider the pros and cons of concentrates that can be dabbed — like shatter and wax.

Those are the two most popular weed concentrates used in America, and they look quite different. It turns out, though, that they’re more similar than you’d imagine.

Let’s talk about shatter vs. wax, and the best type of concentrate to choose for dabbing.

Butane Hash Oil

Why aren’t we starting this discussion by looking at shatter or wax?

Actually, we are. They’re each a form of the cannabis concentrate popularly known as butane hash oil. It’s also called hash oil, butane honey oil, honey oil, or just BHO. (You certainly know by now that weed terminology can be confusing.)

What is BHO?

It’s essentially a concentrate made from the most important and potent parts of the cannabis plant. The plant’s resin glands, also called trichomes, are extracted and concentrated to create a substance with a THC content that can range as high as 70-90%

The same process can also be used to concentrate weed’s non-psychoactive CBD, its other cannabinoids, or its terpenes.

BHO is most often used for dabbing, whether it’s done in a dab rig or an e-rig. It can also be mixed with weed and smoked, vaped in a pen or vaporizer designed to accommodate concentrates, or used to make tinctures, edibles, or topical creams.

How is BHO Made?

The answer really depends on how you’re using the term “BHO.”

Hash oil is created with the help of a solvent, which is passed through cannabis to collect its cannabinoids and/or trichomes. The solvent is then removed to leave just the “good stuff” in a concentrated form.

Several types of solvents can be used to make honey oil. One is high-proof alcohol like Everclear; weed is simply soaked in the alcohol, strained, and left so the alcohol can evaporate. This is the only method safe for home production.

Another solvent used by professional producers is carbon dioxide, but special equipment and expertise are required to make the method work.

That brings us to the butane in “butane hash oil.” BHO is most often created with the use of butane or another flammable solvent like propane, and once again, the process requires specialized equipment. This is one of the best ways to make hash oil, but it’s also a very dangerous method that should never be attempted at home.

Here’s how it works in a nutshell.

Butane is chilled to turn it into vapor, which is then passed through cannabis in a pressurized tank where the solvent extracts most of the weed’s trichomes. The product is converted back into a liquid and the butane is allowed to evaporate in a vacuum oven, leaving just the concentrated trichomes — in the form of butane hash oil.

Additional processes are used to filter out or remove any plant material or impurities left in the BHO. Some companies reintroduce terpenes into the oil to contribute flavor since most natural terps are normally removed during extraction.

Butane hash oil is one of the most potent forms of weed you can purchase, and one of the purest. If it’s made with carbon dioxide it’s likely to be a bit cleaner, but producers prefer using butane or propane. That’s because the process used with those solvents allows technicians to choose the amounts of each cannabinoid or terpene to extract.

We know that was a long way around to shatter and wax. It was important for our understanding of the two concentrates, though.

Shatter vs. Wax: Essentially the Same Thing

Here’s the short version: shatter and wax are both BHO. The only way to tell them apart is their consistency.

Why are their textures different? Slightly different processes are used during the production of butane hash oil to force the concentrate to take different forms.

Shatter is the most “natural” form of BHO; the extraction is done at high heat, and the final product is left to harden. It takes on a translucent, amber color and assumes a consistency much like thin glass. It can easily be broken in the hand and is likely to shatter if dropped. (“Shatter.” Get it?)

Wax is extracted from weed at lower temperatures which prevent it from fully hardening. The BHO is also agitated by whipping it at the tail end of the process, which rearranges the oil’s molecules and gives it an opaque, waxy appearance. (“Wax.” Get it?)

Other forms of BHO are made in similar ways. For example:

  • Budder: A soft and airy consistency (like butter, get it?) is created when the mixture is whipped while the solvent is purged at a very high temperature.
  • Badder: This one is made with a method similar to budder, but produces a slightly thicker texture (like cake batter, get it?).
  • Crumble: Shatter is melted and then whipped, creating a (you guessed it) crumbly texture.
  • Taffy: The concentrate is heated, stretched, and pulled to produce a (yep, right again!) texture like taffy. It’s also known as pull ‘n’ snap.”
  • Sauce: Left for weeks to allow the butane to be purged, cannabinoids form crystals and terpenes form a rich oil. The two are then sold as a “sauce” with the THC crystals floating in the oil.

Despite all of their textural differences, all of these concentrates — including shatter and wax — are usually consumed in the same way: they’re dabbed. They can also be vaped or mixed with weed for smoking, as we’ve mentioned.

The other differences between them are small ones. For example, shatter is a more stable substance, so it will have a longer shelf life than wax and won’t its lose potency as quickly. Wax is a little easier to split into “serving sizes,” because shatter breaks into pieces whose size can’t be controlled.

Some people insist that shatter packs a stronger punch than wax, but there’s no scientific reason that would be true. Any difference is likely to be caused by variables in the production process. Each should have approximately the same high THC content when produced under optimal conditions.

And they can each deliver a mind-blowing high.

Shatter vs. Wax: FAQ

Q: Which is a better choice for beginning dabbers?
A: They’re both good options, but some newbies prefer wax because it’s easier to manipulate. On the other hand, some prefer shatter because it’s not quite as sticky and malleable, making it easier to pick up a piece and put it onto a dab nail. They’re the best types of concentrates to get started with.

Q: How can you tell high-quality shatter and wax?
A: High-end shatter will usually be a light amber color, almost transparent, with a strong cannabis aroma. The best wax will be amber to light gold in color with no signs of visible plant material; a green tint means there’s residual weed hidden inside. Neither should smell like butane or propane, which would mean that the solvent wasn’t purged properly.